If You Had The Money, Would You Clone Your Pet?

“There are always, due to their popularity and short life spans, many beloved dogs dying — and many families grieving.” 

– John Woestendiek, author of ‘Dog Inc, The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend’

The worst thing that can befall a mother or father is losing a child, of whatever age. Even worse is losing a child to suicide. But that is what happened to photographer Monni Must. When Monni’s 28-year-old daughter Miya took her own life, left behind was Billy Bean, Miya’s young and lively black Labrador.
Naturally, Monni took Billy Bean into her care. The connection with Miya and the love of the dog provided comfort for her in her grief. But as the 10th anniversary of Miya’s death approached, and Billy by now 13, was getting increasingly frail –
“I knew that I was falling apart,” said Must. “The thought of Billy dying was just more than I could handle.”
So she took the radical step of having Billy cloned. It cost upwards of $50,000, and her family thought she’d lost her mind. For her money she got Gunni, essentially an identical twin of Billy, but a puppy version. It would be a hard-hearted person indeed who could sit in judgement.

Cloning dogs seems to be flavour of the month. It’s only a week or so since Barbra Streisand was roasted in the media after her public appearance with Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet, two clones from her beloved but now deceased Coton de Tulear Samantha.

The Guardian newspaper for one made no bones about its disapprobation. It even used the ‘t-word’, overused currency in the tabloids, but as a rule carefully avoided by the broadsheets – “A Modern Tragedy” its headline read. It went on, “To own an animal is to learn about the inevitability of dying – not that loved ones can be replicated if we cough up the cash.” 

Streisand’s celebrity status may have turned the spotlight on this relatively new business enterprise, but cloning other animals has been a thing for years – since 1996 in fact when the creation of Dolly the sheep made waves. It took another decade for South Korean scientists to bring to birth Snuppy, the first cloned dog.

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Of course cloning is not the only form of bioengineering current. There is also CRISPR. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

A US company called AgGenetics using gene-editing has produced mice with coats in different colours, and unbelievably, in a variety of patterns: squares, stripes and spots. Next stop – choose your preferred colourway and pattern for your own customised dog?

China, “where genetic engineers benefit from massive facilities and little oversight,” is ‘leading’ the CRISPR field for producing customised animals. Chinese labs “are full of cats, rabbits, monkeys, and other animals engineered with this, that and the other traits.” Already on sale are micropigs, gene-edited to grow only tothe apartment-appropriate size of a corgi”, if you have $1,600 dollars to spare. A bargain compared with the cost of a cloned dog though. Also up for grabs are fluorescent jellyfish and sea anemones, gene-edited to light up your aquarium.

“How much more would owners pay for the ultimate luxury: an animal designed to specification? A zebra-striped hamster, say, or a teacup elephant? ” Anything is possible, but does that make it right?

CRISPR sits along a different branch of bioengineering from cloning. If anything, its potential applications are even more disturbing, but a discussion for another day.

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So back to cloning. What are the rights and wrongs of cloning, cloning our pets in particular? Is this yet another instance of science racing ahead at such speed it’s leaving the ethics trailing in the dust?

Some of the problems, practical and ethical

Number 1

If your beloved Fido or Felix is growing grey around the muzzle and a little stiff in the joints, and you have the spare cash to go down the cloning route, you may end up disappointed with the result. Yes, cloning does produce an identical twin, a newborn one of course, but some things are not infallibly reproduced. The personality for a start, but isn’t that what we most love about our pets? You will not actually be getting, as you had hoped, your fur baby reborn in a new incarnation. Even the coat may be different. Worse, there is also the likelihood of reproducing genetic flaws.

Vicki Katrinak, program manager for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States has something to say on the matter:

Companies that clone animals are “preying on grieving pet owners, giving them a false promise that they are going to replicate their beloved pet,” she told AFP. “Pet cloning doesn’t replicate a pet’s personality.” Incidentally adding “There is no justification for the practice.”

That you cannot count on getting the exact replica of your pet is actually the least of the concerns around pet cloning.

Number 2

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk said she would “love to have talked her [Barbra Streisand] out of cloning,” noting that “millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned.”

To visit a dog or cat shelter is a heartbreaking experience. All those fur babies waiting for a loving home, and ready to love a new family right back with unquestioning devotion. Isn’t it cruelty by default to artificially create more, when there are thousands, if not millions of beautiful animals, desperate for our love and care – many of which will be euthanised because no-one came forward for them in time?

All the other problematic aspects of cloning pets become apparent when we take a look at how the process works:-

Step 1

You start by harvesting cells from the dog you want to clone. You can do this before or after the pet’s death, up to 5 days after provided the corpse is kept cool. (If you’re starting to feel a little squeamish already, brace yourself. It gets worse.)

Step 2

Extract egg cells from as many donor dogs as you can get hold of. (To create Snuppy the world’s first cloned dog, Korean scientists surgically removed eggs from 115 female dogs.)

Step 3

Merge your original dog cells and the egg and subject the new merged entity to chemicals and an electric shock to trigger cell division. You will have to do this multiple times to ensure success – hence the requirement for all those ‘donated’ eggs.

Step 4

Implant the resulting embryos into surrogate female dogs. You will need lots of them. For Snuppy, it took 120. The bitches won’t be able to object of course. You will be using all those bodies for the pregnancies and births.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, you will probably have to abort a lot of the 120 foetuses along the way. Still keen to continue?

Other problems

It can still go wrong. An American cloning company’s president cited a clone who was supposed to be black and white being born “greenish-yellow,” dogs born with skeletal malformations and one clone of a male dog who was born with both male and female sex organs. If that should happen while cloning your pet, what should we do with the less than perfect?

Even after eliminating the ‘failures’, there are still a massive number of ‘surplus’ clones from which you have chosen the one or two who truly resemble your original pet. What shall we do with the rest?

The cloning industry is staying mute on what are surely two huge ethical issues.

Maybe even grieving Monni Must may have thought better of cloning Billy Bean if she’d realised what went on behind the scenes. As with every instance without exception where humans make money from exploiting animals (and often other humans at the same time) the profiteers take great pains to keep their activities under wraps. They are fully aware of what would be an absolutely normal reaction to their exploitation/abuse – public outrage. Out of sight is indeed out of mind.

Time I think to take off the wraps!

 

 

Sources

Tiny Pigs, Glowing Bunnies, and Pink and Purple Cats…Oh, My!

The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Pet cloning is not just for celebrities anymore

What a dog-cloning expert would have told Barbra Streisand: ‘Nooooooo!’

Related posts

What is it like to Be a Dog (Or a Dolphin)?

The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Together Forever

6 Good Reasons to Pass up on Crufts

Fiona the Hippo Predicts Superbowl Winner – Harmless Fun or Shameless Exploitation?

“Fiona the hippo knows who will win Super Bowl 2018. This is science.”

Apparently.

Harmless fun or shameless exploitation? A bit of both. Fiona certainly looks to be enjoying her salad, so hopefully no hippo was harmed in the making of this video.

All I can add to my previous post about adorable Fiona, is that Cincinnati Zoo knew what it was doing when it appointed its marketing director. No profitable opportunity is missed. He/she is making the little hippo worth her ever-expanding weight in gold for the zoo’s coffers.

The zoo is non-profit, so let us hope all those extra dollars Fiona is unwittingly spinning  will conserve wildlife where we want it to be – in the wild.

Update 5th February 2018

Fiona was right on the button, or should I say, on the lettuce. She picked the underdog Eagles and the underdogs won! I believe the POTUS will be visiting Cincinnati this week. I do hope he doesn’t get to pay a visit to little Fi. Now that would be cruelty to animals.

Sources

Photo and video from CZ

Here’s Who Will Win Super Bowl 2018, According to a Hippo

Related posts

Adorable Baby Hippo’s First Birthday Wipes CZ’s Slate Clean of the Killing of Harambe

14 Reasons Not to Visit Zoos – in Pictures

Adorable Baby Hippo’s 1st Birthday Wipes CZ’s Slate Clean of the Killing of Harambe

“Some days, it’s more like being a Hollywood star’s agent than a communications official for the zoo. That’s what happens when your prematurely born hippopotamus becomes a global celebrity.”

– Dan Sewell, spokesperson for Cincinnati Zoo.

Remember the furore in 2016 when Harambe the gorilla, after rescuing from the water a 3 year old boy who had climbed a fence and fallen into his enclosure, was shot dead at Cincinnati Zoo? Harambe was born in a zoo and died in a zoo – his life was ended for him just one day after his 17th birthday. He could have lived until he was 40.

But now Harambe is yesterday’s news, and Cincinnati Zoo has been celebrating a different birthday, and I mean celebrating. All that adverse publicity has become no more than a bad dream. Fiona the baby hippo, who has showered the zoo with her golden stardust since the moment of her birth, has just turned 1. And Cincinnati Zoo decided to throw a big party open to all. The human party-goers received gifts: hippo bathmats, Fiona-themed postcards stamped with her footprint (yes, really), cake and ice cream. The zoo’s animals were not left out. They got “party favours” of special enrichment toys.

As Harambe before her, Fiona is a global celebrity – but not like him for what many believe was an avoidable death, but for the tenacity with which she clung on to her little life. The little hippo was born prematurely in the zoo and needed the same kind of special care from the humans as a human baby. After 2 weeks, she took her first steps. 2 days later she took her first dip in a tub. Her cuteness cannot be denied.

By this time, she had captured the imagination of thousands, if not millions, and the zoo was receiving cards, drawings and donations for the little one. They followed her day-by-day progress as she grew and got steadily stronger. By April she was weighing in at a healthy 150 lbs. Needless to say, visitors are flocking to see her. (Numbers for CZ are up from 1.63 million in 2016 to 1.87 million last year.} When Fiona’s little head peeks out, the roar of delight from visitors can be heard all over the zoo.

 

“Zoo director Thane Maynard’s own “Saving Fiona” will later this year join the growing library of books about her. The Cincinnati Reds baseball team will feature a Fiona bobblehead, and the minor-league Florence, Kentucky, Freedom plans a Fiona snow globe this summer. There will be a “Fiona’s Cove” exhibit at next month’s annual Cincinnati Home & Garden Show.”

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Add to that list the Fiona calendar, Fiona-themed T-shirts, cookies, ornaments, and beer. There will even be special edition Fiona ice cream. So as well as the extra visitor revenue, the zoo has made almost $500,000 in licensing agreements with the local businesses cashing in on her fame, and no doubt much more to come.

Animal babies are good news for zoos, and never more so than when the zoo’s reputation has been tarnished by the scandal surrounding an untimely death – RIP Harambe. With Fiona’s birth, especially as the poor babe was premature (will she/won’t she pull through – the tug on the heart strings) CZ hit the jackpot.

And while the tlc given to Fiona to help her survive her premature birth was assuredly admirable, zoos are easily tempted to favour their balance sheets over a zoo baby’s welfare. Ueno Zoo in Japan is a case in point. Its panda cub Xiang Xiang is being “put on overtime.”

Ueno Zoo’s first  since 1988 will be on display for an extra two hours every day until the end of January and working a full seven-hour day from February to cater to the thousands of fans of the cuddly celebrity.”  Note “working”. A captive animal has no say.

On the other side of the Pacific, zookeepers at LA Zoo have coaxed a mother okapi and her baby out of their enclosure so the zoo can put the little one on display. Since the natural habitat for this reclusive species is deep in the dense rainforests of central Africa, it is hard to see how this could possibly be in the best interests of mum or baby. The zoo claims, “the mother and father were paired under a species survival plan by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to increase the okapi population. The numbers of okapis in the wild has declined to between 10,000 and 50,000.”

Is it cynical to wonder if this is a nice piece of greenwashing? While exposure to noisy crowds of gawking humans will surely be extremely stressful to a reclusive animal like the okapi, I doubt okapi junior is doing much harm to the zoo’s gate receipts.

Who doesn’t love to see babies? Unregulated roadside zoos and so-called ‘sanctuaries’  deliberately breed from their animals to please the punters. But as Ueno and LA zoos make clear, ‘reputable’ affiliated zoos engage in the same activity. It is after all a surefire way to draw in the crowds and keep gate receipts buoyant. So, what when zoos get more babies than they bargained for? Or those erstwhile babies have outgrown their adorable babyhood?.

If a zoo baby is unlikely to be a mega money spinner like little Fiona, theirs is a very different fate. Remember Marius the baby giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo? Marius was killed with a bolt gun, and cut up and fed to lions before a crowd of schoolchildren. His crime? He was ‘surplus to requirements’ – too genetically similar to the other giraffes in the zoo.

Just this month a Swedish zoo admitted “putting down” – such a nice gentle euphemism – 9 healthy lion cubs in the last 5 years. They too were simply ‘surplus to requirements’.

“Helena Pederson, a researcher in animal studies at Gothenburg University, said the euthanisation of animals in zoos raised the question of whether such institutions should be open.” Indeed!

These examples have hit the headlines, but killing unwanted animals is a commonplace in zoos. Look beyond the stardom of the Fionas and the Xiang Xiangs and zoos are more often places of death than of new life.

The sad truth is, the interests of humans, especially their monetary interests, will always prevail over the best interests of the nonhuman living beings and their right to their lives.


A pioneering project in China

“The Landmark Entertainment company, known for its work on “Jurassic Park: The Ride,” “Kongfrontation” and “The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 5D” at Universal Studios, is building a new project in China that will feature a virtual zoo, a virtual aquarium, an interactive museum and a digital art gallery — and the group is doing it all with no live animals. It’s called the L.I.V.E. Centre (Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience), and the project started in 2014 with funding from a group of investors from China. It’s slated to open between 2017 and 2018.” Read more

What a wonderful way this will be to get up close and personal with wildlife and be immersed in the animals’ natural habitats! I hope this cage-free concept will finally draw a line under the thousand-years-and-more history of the captive animal menagerie that is the zoo.

If you’re not yet convinced, take a quick look at 14 Reasons Not to Visit Zoos – in Pictures

Further reading

Animal Equality: Zoos

10 Facts About Zoos

Zoos: Pitiful Prisons

Sources

Photos and videos from CZ’s Facebook page

Hippo-y birthday to Fiona! The popular preemie is turning 1

Everyone’s favourite hippo is turning 1

Japan’s latest overtime example? Xiang Xiang the panda

Los Angeles Zoo puts baby okapi on display

Related posts

14 Reasons Not to Visit Zoos – in Pictures

 

Meet Naruto “Person of the Year”

Whatever you may think of PETA, this is a genius move IMHO. By honoring Naruto, the crested black macaque with a famously goofy grin, as “Person of the Year” the organisation is emphasising that “he is someone, not something”. And what a person he is! I only wish he were able to revel in this accolade – though as long as he is safe and happy…. Go Naruto!

Monkey takes selfie

To find out more about the strange tale surrounding Naruto’s fame, look at Naruto & the Selfie – The Case is Settled

Source

Indonesia’s selfie-snapping monkey named ‘Person of the Year’

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The Punk Rocker with a Snake Venom Habit – An Unexpected Hero for Animals?

“For nearly 30 years, reptile enthusiast and punk musician Steve Ludwin has been injecting snake venom—a practice that almost killed him.”

Steve was only 10 years old when his strange obsession with reptilians first took hold. He was on a visit with his dad to Bill Haast’s Serpentarium in Florida. “Bill Haast* came out and draped an indigo snake around my neck. I was aware that he had been injecting himself with snake venom and I just thought it was the wildest thing I had ever heard.”

A decade or so later and Ludwin was heading up the American band “Carrie”, part of the early ’90s grunge scene (he claims to have dated Courtney Love before her relationship with Kurt Cobain). Between tours he began gargling snake venom, a preventative against throat infections – the singer’s curse. And it worked.

Nowadays Steve shares his London flat with 18 snakes, a number of rare lizards, a cat – oh yes, and his presumably very understanding girlfriend. While a journalist watches, Ludwin extracts the venom from a green Pope’s tree viper by making it bite down on a film-covered glass. He then takes a syringe and injects the fluid into his arm.

The first time Ludwin injected himself with snake venom, he described it as feeling like, “battery acid”. His heart started to race uncontrollably and his arm swelled up and turned a strange shade of green.

“It’s extreme pain”

This is very much a case of ‘Do not try this at home dear readers’. “It’s a very very dangerous thing to do, I don’t encourage people to do it”, he told AFPSteve has found himself in hospital more than once, including a 3-day stay in ICU “following an overdose” – a cocktail of 3 different snake venoms. The doctors told him he would probably die. After 3 days and still swollen he discharged himself, and a week later was fully recovered. This is one seriously tough guy!

For Steve, a wide variety is definitely the spice of life. He has given himself doses of venom from the most dangerous snakes to be found around the world, including cobras and the black mamba.

snake-1974382_960_720

So far, it’s not sounding fun. So why has Ludwin put himself through this for the best part of his adult life? It’s definitely not for the trip: “The sensation of injecting snake venom is not pleasant at all…it’s not like a Jim Morrison trip. You don’t trip—it’s extreme pain.”

Bizarre as this activity seems, there’s a long history of people like Steve deliberately exposing themselves to poisons. All with the same intention – building up immunity to the substance. Cruel King Mithridates (120-63 BC) was so paranoid about being assassinated by poisoning, he fed poisons to ducks, and drank the blood of those who survived. So there is actually a name for Ludwin’s strange habit – it’s called mithridatism. Happily in his case, without the intermediary ducks.

Steve is enthusiastic about the benefits of his strange habit. For one thing, he reckons the fact that he hasn’t had a cold in 15 years is proof of how much it has boosted his immune system against infections. (Hmm, which would I prefer, I wonder, a sniffle or a poisonous snake bite?) And, he says, for 6-8 hours after injecting he gets a huge energy boost.

He also claims it slows the ageing process. He’s taken to adding venom to a moisturiser for his own anti-ageing cream. His girlfriend uses it, gets lots of compliments and swears by it. Maybe it’s true, because Ludwin at 51 years certainly looks a lot more like 30. John Lewis must believe it. They sell their own ‘anti-ageing’ snake oil – a mere £70 for 30ml. Or perhaps they simply have no scruples about creaming off surplus cash from the credulous rich?

Snake oil has a long history. But in America’s Wild West for instance, the peddler of ‘snake oil’ (made of camphor and turpentine, and remarkable only for the absence in it of anything remotely snake-related) assured gullible townsfolk of its potency to cure all ills. Then scarpered with the ill-gotten proceeds before he was found out. That’s how snake oil became synonymous with quackery.

But what Steve Ludwin has flowing around his veins and arteries is the real deal. And this is where the animals – other than the snakes** of course – come into it. For the last 3 years, Steve has been helping Danish scientists and a startup company VenomAb with a view to creating a new venom antidote from his self-immunised blood.

The normal method of creating anti-snake venom serum (ASVS) involves injecting dilute venom into an animal, usually a horse, and 8-10 weeks later ‘harvesting’ his/her blood. Of course, for every different species of snake, a separate antidote has to be extracted from animals. And the lengthy and expensive process has to be repeated over and over to maintain a supply.

One would hope Vahini’s story (below) is not typical. Even so, what goes on behind closed doors is so often found to fall disturbingly short of best practice.

“Vahini couldn’t tell them she was pregnant when they injected potent snake venom into her. Barely a month later, the mare gave birth to a young one with a suspected limb disorder. Soon after the delivery, Vahini went blind in the right eye and her left eye was partially damaged.

“At least 60 other horses have died at the state-run King Institute in Chennai in the past seven months due to improper treatment during the manufacture of anti-snake venom serum.

“Most of the animals at the Institute are ailing – horses and mules housed there for experiments and production of serum. It seems that ‘good clinical practices’ and ‘ethical conduct’ are unknown phrases at King Institute. ‘The potency of the venom, the frequency of shots and duration of bleeding are all beyond the permitted limits,’ says an insider.” India Today

Around 5.4 million people across the world get bitten by snakes every year, and roughly 100,000 of them die. Effective treatment relies not only on identifying which snake did the biting, but on the availability, and affordability, of the correct serum. Typical cost in hospital around £2000, but can be as much as £11,700.

The ASVS collected from Ludwin will be unique. No other serum in the world will contain antibodies to such a wide-ranging variety of different snake poisons. Who knows how many animals he will liberate from the cruel ASVS harvesting process.

VenomAb expects the research to be completed a year from now. Their intention, with the support of governments or NGOs, is to distribute the new all-purpose anti-venom in the countries where it is needed, free of charge.

Many human lives will be saved. And so hopefully will many nonhumans’.

In Steve Ludwin’s words:

“If I’m the person that makes it so that those horses get put out to pasture, I will die with the biggest f—— smile on my face.”


If you’re in London in the next 6 months, you can see a short film about Steve at the Natural History Museum’s newly opened exhibition Venom: Killer & Cure

It features some of the 200,000 venomous creatures in the world. And it seems Ludwin has an almost equally foolhardy comrade-in-venom: For exhibition purposes, Justin O Schmidt allowed himself to be bitten or stung by more than 80 different species of ‘Nature’s nastiest’, “to establish a scale of pain.” What can I say?


*Bill Haast incidentally, who ‘milked’ the venom from 100 snakes a day, lived to the ripe old age of 100, having survived 172 bites from some of the world’s deadliest snakes. He flew around the world donating his blood for direct transfusion to bite victims, in this way saving 21 lives.

**Whether Ludwin should be keeping snakes captive and ‘milking’ them for their venom is another matter. But snakes are already kept captive for the production of ASVS. And since he has been doing this for 30 years or more anyway, isn’t it a good thing that he chooses to use himself – not horses and mules forced to have their bodies turned into ASVS factories?


To see photos of Ludwin and his snakes, click on one of the first two sources below

Update February 5th 2018

Big strides in the push for affordable, effective antivenoms Among other things, this article actually shows how using horses to produce antivenom is not a reliable method. Ludwin’s contribution to medicine is so much more valuable.

Sources

Snake man’s venom habit holds hope for new antidote by Pauline Froissart

Why this former punk rocker injects himself with snake venom

Venomous Nightmare

Antivenom: how it’s made & why it’s so precious

Nature’s nastiest beasts on show in London

Related posts

Jeremy – The Bittersweet Tale of the ‘Shellebrity’ Snail

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Helping Animals

The True Cost of New Drugs

We Owe It To The Earth

Even if you’re not the praying kind, and even if the message is still somewhat anthropocentric, I’m sure you’ll agree it is very heartening that these words are flying out across the world to 1.2 billion catholics and 300 million Orthodox christians – and particularly those of any faith or none we hope may be listening in presidential homes and palaces – urging us to protect, preserve, respect. And cease to exploit.

Joint message of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the World Day of Prayer for Creation

“The story of creation presents us with a panoramic view of the world. Scripture reveals that, “in the beginning”, God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment. At first, as we read in Genesis, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground” (2:5). The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility until, “in the end”, all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10). Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.

“However, in the meantime, the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.

“The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting. The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures. The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development.

“Therefore, united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good, we fervently invite all people of goodwill to dedicate a time of prayer for the environment on 1 September.  On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations. After all, we know that we labour in vain if the Lord is not by our side (cf. Ps 126-127), if prayer is not at the centre of our reflection and celebration. Indeed, an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world. The goal of our promise is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.

“We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”

This is a message not just for the 1st of September, but for every day of every year.

Update

6th October 2017 Catholic institutions announce largest ever faith-based fossil fuel divestment – EcoWatch

Source: The Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation – Vatican Radio

A page of environment petitions

Related posts

A Very Quick Critique of the Pope’s Message on Climate Change

Walking Hand in Hand with Nature

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

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Because THEY Are Worth It

Cover pic Cruelty Free International

L’Oréal

Imagine yourself in a focus group, being asked to blurt out the first words that come into your head when L’Oréal is mentioned. Would they be ‘beauty’, ‘skincare’, ‘make up’?
Or would they be ‘cruelty’, ‘suffering’, ‘inhumanity’? Because underneath the company’s flawless façade of glamour lies an underbelly of ugliness – brutal testing on animals.

In the EU, not only is testing on animals for cosmetics banned, but as from 2013 there’s also a blanket ban on the sale of any cosmetics and/or their ingredients tested on animals outside the EU. Similar measures have also been enacted in India, Israel, Norway, and Switzerland. More than 1.8 billion people can now only buy cosmetics that will never be tested on animals again. American cosmetic companies must already comply with these laws in order to sell their products internationally. Guatemala, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and four states in Brazil have also passed laws to end or limit cosmetic animal testing.¹

There is, as yet, no such ban though within the USA itself where untold millions of animals undergo extreme pain and distress in research for cosmetics, as well as drugs and household products. ‘Untold’ because the most commonly-used animals are rats and mice, which the USDA does not define as animals for the purpose of animal experiments. So they slip conveniently under the radar.

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L’Oréal and their ilk are rubbing chemicals into animals’ shaved skin, dripping them into their eyes, and even force-feeding the chemicals with a tube down their throats directly into their stomachs, for months at a time, to test for signs of ‘adverse effects’ like cancer or birth defects. All up till now sanctioned by US law.

L’Oréal clearly cares nothing for animal welfare. And such a huge corporation – featuring 198th on Forbes’ List of The World’s Biggest Public Companies, and reckoned to be worth $107.5 billion – can easily afford to forego sales to vegans!

But now there is a brighter side. Enter EpiSkin

What is EpiSkin? “EpiSkin is an in vitro, reconstructed human skin (just the epidermis) cultured on a collagen matrix at the air-liquid interface.”

L’Oréal are pumping some of their lovely big profits into the EpiSkin project. Not because they’ve seen the error of their ways, or out of the kindness of their heart, you can be sure, but because EpiSkin gives a “much better simulation of human skin than animals.” Which means beauty products tailor-made for the end user, rather than best-guessed. Which means increased profits. And as a spin-off, no more torture for the animals, we sincerely hope.

And there is more good news

L’Oréal is making this research open to all:

“EpiSkin models are also available to the global scientific community to support academic and corporate research and development activities across industries,” Charbel Bouez, vice president of advanced research at L’Oréal’s America Zone and president of EpiSkin, told CNBC.

And more

EpiSkin is not the only cultured human skin under research. It has a twin – EpiDerm launched by MatTek in 1993. MatTek does the ultimate in recycling: they use surgical waste skin from cosmetic surgery to grow its two adult humans worth of skin per week.

And still more

EpiSkin“already works so well that it’s outperforming animal testing in most scenarios.

Its applications could reach far beyond the beauty industry, hopefully into medical research. These two competitors, plus other research labs around the world, are looking to expand the technique to make cells for human organs, organs other than skin. This could make even today’s cutting edge technology of organs-on-a-chip obsolete.

For companies and institutions engaged in research, testing on cells in petri dishes is a huge financial saving on keeping those millions and millions of unfortunate animals in labs. Plus the benefits in terms of accurate results are off the scale.

And yet more

The United States itself is close to finally saying “no” to cruel cosmetics.The Humane Cosmetics Act is being reintroduced in Congress with bi-partisan support. This week is the week! The Act would bring US legislation in line with that of many other countries, as well as the EU. It would prohibit the use of animals to test cosmetic products and ingredients, and phase out the sale of cosmetics tested on animals overseas.

If you live in America please urge your legislators to support the Humane Cosmetics Act

#BeCrueltyFree

Hopefully the time is not too far off when we will look back at animal testing and will not believe how we could have been complicit in the barbaric torture of others, just because we could. That we were drawn into parting with our cash on products of cruelty that promised to magically transform us into an Eva Longoria, a Jennifer Aniston.

But meanwhile, for everyone, everywhere:

  • Sign the Humane Society’s petition to Support Legislation to End Inhumane Cosmetics Testing on Animals here
  • Check out Cruelty Free International’s campaign page with 8 petitions to sign
  • Get ‘The Little Book of Cruelty Free’ handy pocket guide here
  • Or search here for Leaping Bunny certified cruelty free products
  • Sign up for CFI’s email updates
  • Donate here – every single donation received, large or small, helps animals in laboratories

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¹One Green Planet

Other Sources

The Humane Nation – Wayne Pacelle’s Blog

Lab-grown human skin might finally spell the end for animal testing – ZME

Cosmetics Tests That Use Animals – HSUS

Related posts

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

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Calling All Rabbit-Lovers

Today is Earth Day – Do Something Special for the Planet

Cover pic Environmental Council of Sacramento

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

― Noam Chomsky

In the fantastical political landscape we are inhabiting right now, those in power energetically pursue their own materialistic, money-driven agenda. What if in the process their hobnail boots trample all over the environment, animals, conservation, science, public lands, people, the climate. The whole shebang. Planet Earth itself. And leave behind a footprint that is anything but small and green? Are they blinkered by greed, or do they simply not care?

Earth Day Saturday 22nd April is our chance to show the clique now in the seats of power that we hold dear what they despise. They are too shortsighted – but we are not – to see that the paths of self-interest they have chosen lead straight to doomsday, armageddon, the apocalypse. Whatever you like to call it. The end of life on Earth as we know it. Truly.

The stakes could not be higher.

So here is a selection of ways we can join over 1 billion other people and testify to our celebration of, and our firm intention to, safeguard the wonder that is Planet Earth

Show your solidarity by taking part in an Earth Optimism event near you

Dr Jane Goodall will be topping the bill in Cambridge UK, where there will be talks and activities for all ages. Not forgetting the event taking place in London.

Dallas, Washington DC, New York, Santa Fe, Miami, Chicago and many other US cities, as well as Finland, Columbia, Canada, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Panama are all staging events and celebrations of their own. For the full program click here.


Or join the March for Science taking place in more than 500 communities worldwide

Find a March near you. If you can’t make it in person, join the Virtual March.

Find out more about the March for Science here and here

Dr David Suzuki also tells us “Why We Must March for Science”:

Because “politicians are supposed to work for the long-term well-being of people who elect them, not to advance the often shortsighted agendas of those who pay large sums of money to get their way regardless of the consequences …” Read more here

Professor Brian Cox on the Role of Science in a Democracy


“This Earth Day is all about celebrating Every Corner of the World!” says Team Sierra. They want you to
  • get outside and join in by hiking in YOUR corner this Earth Day
  • Share what is special about your corner of the earth using hashtags #EveryCorner and #TeamSierra
  • Raise funds to help protect the planet

Discover more here


Join the Earth Day Network here

Want to know more? Find out about Earth Day: Facts & History here

And don’t put those marching boots away! Keep them ready for People’s Climate March 2017 next weekend, Sat 29th April

 

Related posts

There is Always Hope for the Animals & the Planet

What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife

Good Job Mr President, Your Action Plan for the Environment is the Best

 

There is Always Hope for the Animals & the Planet

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

― Noam Chomsky

There is no denying that the planet faces serious problems on so many levels: war, terrorism, poverty, hunger, disease, the environment, pollution, global warming and extinctions. What makes it more difficult to find solutions to even one of these intractable issues is that all are woven together in a complex nexus.

But if you’re drowning in a daily deluge of bad news like sometimes I feel I am, and losing the will to get out of bed in the morning, feeling helpless and hopeless, disempowered by the magnitude of the problems, don’t despair. Rescue is at hand!

If you haven’t already met it, it’s time to introduce you to my new discovery Earth Optimism, tagline

‘Change is positively possible’

“Earth Optimism is a global initiative that celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability.”

Watch their inspiring little video.

Explore their home page and sample some of the great posts from their blog.


In April 2016 Sir David Attenborough

the most famous naturalist on the planet, abseiled down a green wall in the atrium of the brand new David Attenborough Building, Cambridge. The building named for him forms the campus of a new global conservation hub, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative – the largest grouping of nature conservation organisations and university researchers in the world. Big names among them include the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

At the official opening Sir David addressed those present:

“The future of our life on Earth is dependent on the natural world – for the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we use – and for the feelings we have of awe and wonder at nature’s extraordinary riches. In this remarkable age we are learning more and more about the intricacies of our dependence on nature. Yet our natural world is threatened as never before. The threats are both numerous and interrelated, and no one institution, however effective, can hope to address them all alone.”

“It is for this reason that the work of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative is so exceptional. By bringing together leaders in research, practice, policy and teaching, we stand the greatest chance of developing the solutions required to save our planet.”

earth-day-beautiful-logoOn its campus, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative will be hosting one of the worldwide  Earth Optimism public events being held to coincide with Earth Day April 22nd 2017, and it sounds like a happening absolutely not to be missed.

We are promised inspiring stories of hope, and talks by leading conservationists and naturalists. Topping the bill will be Dr Jane Goodall. Worth going just for that! There will also be a Solutions Fair with positive ideas of practical things we as individuals can do to make a difference.

To find out more click here   

If you’re interested in joining the Cambridge event look no further for your invitation:

“Given the crisis facing nature, it is all too easy to give up hope. Yet, around the globe we are winning the fight to protect the natural world. Deforestation is slowing down. Wetlands are being rebuilt. Numbers of some of our rarest creatures are on the rise. People are making this change happen. Stand with us on Earth Day 2017 to celebrate what is working and why. Discover how every one of us can become more involved in winning the fight – come to #EarthOptimism Cambridge.”

To register your interest click here. And on the day take the kids!

London is not to be outdone. The London Zoological Society is hosting their open-to-the-public event April 20th-22nd, “during which we will showcase positive actions that are making a difference in people’s relationships to nature and much more.”

Other venues for Earth Optimism happenings on and around Earth Day include Dallas, Washington DC , Santa Fe and Panama.

Earth Day‘s own website is also most definitely one worth checking out.

On Earth Day’s Take Action page there are – obviously – things we can take action on. But also a counter that has registered 2,023,369, 216 ‘Acts of Green’ – more than 2 billion, and with your help on the way to 3!

Earth Day invites you to join the movement here

community-1769575__340This is the wonderful thing the internet can do for us now – we can join a worldwide network of activists working together, encouraging and supporting each other. A trite thing to say, perhaps. But it’s good to remind ourselves that we are not as insignificant, alone and powerless as we feel in our blacker moments.

Together we can make a difference, and there is always hope.

Join the March for Science on Earth Day April 22, 2017 at the National Mall in Washington DC.

Get Involved. Join the movement. Act Now
Give To The Cause. Help power the movement. Donate
Spread the Word. Stay Connected.
Make your own contribution to fighting climate change by supporting Earth Day Network’s tree-planting Canopy Project here

Postscript

Many wildlife and conservation groups published details of their wins in 2016.  To be cheered and encouraged some more, just click here to see the Center for Biological Diversity’s list of victories. And for the WWF’s here

And the Climate Reality Project tells us There’s Still Climate Hope in America despite President Trump’s worst efforts.

Update

24th February 2017 – From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Director for Center for Biological Diversity: “It’s been just over a month since Inauguration Day. I wish I could say the news has gotten better since then, but it hasn’t. With one exception: the resistance keeps getting stronger. To keep building the movement, the Center is looking for volunteers to help bring the message of resistance to Earth Day festivals in every state. If you’d like to represent the Center at your local Earth Day event, send me an email.”

Buy your Earth Day tee here5939b1fcb6a83daf38a856d6_342x400

Sources

Sir David Attenborough opens global hub for nature conservation

A global movement to celebrate ‘the most precious thing in the world’: introducing #EarthOptimism

Join us to celebrate #EarthOptimism in Cambridge on 22nd April 2017

The Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit

Earth Day Network

Read more Has hope become the most endangered species on the planet? – The Guardian

Related posts

Hope for the Animals & the Planet?

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

How Drones Might Just Save Our Endangered Animals & the Planet

Half for Us Half for the Animals

My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

Hanna,  passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is  founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements

Q:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories?  Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?

A:  I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout.  The following are a number of evident scenarios:

1  At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog.  I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home.  Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger.  There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper.  I cried all the way home.  As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water.  I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged.  Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move.  Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner.  Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!

2  My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street.  Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels.  My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.

I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.

Q:  Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan

A:  By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland.  Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce.  All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk.  It just seemed like those were stolen goods.  Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.

Q:  Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?

A:  I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.”  That did it!  That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them!  Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk.  Now you don’t want to eat meat?!  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to die?”  Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.

At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way.  I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof.  I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again.  By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost.  I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime.  On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.

Q:  What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?

A:  It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle.  I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals.  I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.

Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.  I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.

Q:  What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?

A:  My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path.  Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful.  As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering.  It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.

In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.

Q:  You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?

A:  Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer.  As of today, I’ve written and published:

  • vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
  • children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
  • and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)

I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.

Q:  What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?

A:  Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:

Hanna V. Golan
Sprout A Vegan
Vegan Blogger  & also here
Global Vegan Registry
Vegans in San Fernando Valley
Antelope Valley Vegans

In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.

Q:  Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?

A:  I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).

Q:  Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?

A:  My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.

Q:  Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?

A:  The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.

Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.

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Join the Global Vegan Registry here

Related posts – interviews with other remarkable vegans

A Picture of Compassion Chantal Poulin Durocher

Ama’s Story

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ryan Phillips – Ambassador for the Animals Extraordinaire

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Dale Vince – Vegan Tycoon of Unwavering Vision

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